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Continent-wide palaeoclimate project launched

The three-year project entitled “Isotopes in Holocene precipitation from the Atlantic to Siberia: the speleothem record” is coordinated by Yuri Dublyansky and studies the Holocene moisture transfer along a 8,500 km-long transect from the Atlantic seaboard of Europe to the middle of the Eurasian continent (between 9°W and 105°E). The aim of the project is to reconstruct the evolution of the isotope composition in the atmospheric moisture as it moves deep inland, and to see whether the patterns of evolution have changed during the Holocene.
The pioneering work on this subject was done by Frank McDermott (Dublin) and co-workers (2010, 2011) using speleothems from European cave sites. To reconstruct the isotopic composition of palaeoprecipitation they used the oxygen isotopic composition of speleothem calcite. In our project, we move one step further and will determine the isotopic composition of palaeo-dripwater directly, by analyzing fluid inclusions trapped in stalagmites. This will provide robust constraints on the isotopic composition of meteoric precipitation unaffected by the temperature of the individual cave site. The analytical line for these sophisticated analyses is available in our laboratory.
Most of the European speleothems for this project will come from well-studied cave sites through collaboration with European colleagues. In addition, we will obtain samples from cave sites in eastern Europe (Crimea, Ural Mountains) and in Asia (Altai Mountains, East Sayan Mountains) and establish cave monitoring programs there. U-Th dating will be done by Denis Scholz (University of Mainz, Germany). Our isotope time series will be compared with the results of Holocene climate simulations employing the isotope-enabled general circulation model ECHAM5 in collaboration with Martin Werner (Alfred Wegener Institute, Bremerhaven, Germany).